Iron Brigade (previously called Trenched) is an odd mix of World War 1 trench warfare, mech battles and tower defence. A mix that seemingly doesn’t go together all that well. Oh sure WW1 and tower defence works, as Toy Soldiers has shown, but how can giant bipedal walking robots gel with the rest of the game?
Well let’s see how such an odd set up happened. During WW1 two brave soldiers (Frank Woodruff and Vladimir Farnsworth) are crippled in the line of duty; but rather than giving up the fight they go to work in communication. One day a mysterious broadcast is heard, killing all the radio crew other than Frank and Vlad. The side effect is that they both become geniuses; Frank creates bipedal machines to help injured vets live normal lives, while Vlad creates Television. Only thing is that Vlad goes insane, creates monster robots out of TV’s (called Tubes) and sets out to conquer the world, the only thing to stand his way is the Mobile Trench Brigade which is what it sounds like…a trench but mobile.
We control one of four manly characters as they hop into one of these giant robotic trenches. The goal of the game is almost always defend a position from tube attack. At the start it seems like a fairly standard third person shooter as you take shots at enemies that come charging towards the objective in waves. You’ve got loads of weapons to play around with; machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, cannons and broadcasters (radar dishes that fire out harmful emissions).
However aside from shooting everything we can see we can also set up gun emplacements anywhere on the map. All you need to do this is scrap; destroyed enemies produce scrap so the more you kill the more guns you can place. At first this feels like its rather optional, enemies generally aren’t too much of an issue and you can defend the area well enough without additional help. But it quickly becomes apparent that your guns alone aren’t enough to cover all approaches and the additional fire power is essential. Like the weapons you’ve got loads of different types of gun emplacements; machine guns, flak guns, snipers, mortars, mines, damping fields, scrap collectors and repair stations.
Again earlier levels make this game feel like a rather simple game but later levels are truly hectic as you’ve personally got to fend off increasingly damaging waves of enemies yet also somehow set up and maintain a selection of turrets. Also as you progress you’ll unlock new types of trenches; these will affect what you can bring onto the battlefield. There are three main types Assault (allows for maximum firepower on the trench but only allows for two types of turret emplacement), standard (allows for mid-range damage weaponry on the trench but gives up to three different types of gun emplacement) and engineer (only allows the weakest type of weapons but allows for four different types of gun emplacement). So you’ll have to carefully decide which rig to use in which level.
The choice doesn’t end there either. On top of the different types of weapons and gun emplacements there will also be additional upgrades and special types of weapons that will randomly drop during gameplay or you can purchase from the in game shop. You can also find clothes for your marine, new legs for your trench and brand spanking new colour schemes for those that are fed up with olive green. The game also has a full co-op mode where you and three friends can play through the main campaign or take part in a survival mode which is good fun. As you can all have different set ups and the level of customisation starts to make sense. Sadly local co-op is not supported.
A problem is that there is just too much choice at times. When you’re starting a mission you’ll be given a hint as to what to bring with you so that means you’ve got to customise your trench and what gun emplacements you’re going to take. Switch between rigs and your previous customised trench is now overwritten so you’ll have to reselect everything again for the mission. This gets a bit tedious as you just want to get into the action and is only compounded when you’re playing in a group and don’t want to be bringing the same weapons. The only other real complaint I have is that the framerate is an issue. This seems to be linked to how long you’ve been playing the game rather than the amount of action on the screen which is odd, to say the least.
The whole game is just a lot of fun. It’s from Double Fine so as you expect it’s a quirky game full of humour. The core gameplay is rather addictive and thanks to the customisation the game begs for you to replay the levels again to attain higher scores. Despite some minor issues it’s definitely worth a download from the XBLA store, or for the PC from Steam.